Monday, September 27, 2010

Bowling for Hash Browns

I am the re-setting machine in a one-lane bowling alley. You only have to get one pin, way over in the corner, and before I can think about it I'm sweeping the whole array back into the depths of my throat with a big mechanical arm and starting over from scratch, simultaneously sliding the ball back to whoever is next in line. The whole process is slick, perfect, rubber, composite wood floors reflected in every waxy surface, and the ball spins airily, pushing the pins over with a softness that betrays the sound of the contact, cracking and popping like a big ceramic wildfire. I might be a single-function machine, but you're wearing someone else's shoes.

I'm hoping that when somebody buys up this old bowling alley -- It hasn't turned a profit in years --  they'll have the guts to recontextualize me instead of just throwing me out or putting me on the wall, a showpiece that has outlived its utility. If you turn the place into a diner, you can suspend me from the rafters, and when someone finishes their eggs and coffee, I'll swoop down with the mechanisms I know so well, everything into the soapy bucket and then new settings lowered down, silverware and glasses and jam and butter and a napkin at each place. It wouldn't be one of those corny themed places, "Come on down to Dine & Bowl" and signed memorabilia on the walls. Just your homemade buttermilk waffles and a good friend helping you bus tables.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reality? Check.

I just had my sanity re-evaluated by a perfectly normal looking stranger in a green fleece jacket. He introduced himself with a joke I didn't understand, peering into my computer lab suspiciously and then laughing, "I'm just kidding, how are you doing?" After that entrance, he walks in and begins talking about graduating from West High, but he wants something more from his life. West High, so do I know this guy, is that why he's talking to me? He doesn't look familiar. He says he doesn't want to take away my time, but could I tell him where he could get a new Air Force Uniform? He needs a new one, he says as he pulls from his wallet a laminated picture of himself, a few years younger, in full regalia.

"No, I'm sorry, I really wouldn't know where to get one..."
"The VA, maybe? Sorry, I don't mean to be rude."
"Yeah, I'm sure they can point you in the right direction anyway."

Some talk follows from him (with no space for contribution by me but smiles and affirmative nods) about West High, new beginnings, getting his credits transferred to the U, his dad works here, he doesn't want to go back to the gravel pits, he's riding on the second wave of his life, and this is a letter from his bishop saying that he could use some on-the-job experience. Girls don't like him because he never served a mission, but he doesn't think that's too important.

This man is smiling an immense, braces-laden smile as he talks, finding humor in every few sentences, enough to laugh and watch me to make sure I'm smiling too. He looks young, fresh-faced. He looks like he belongs in the front row of a freshmen chemistry class. He is not the fast-talking conspiracy theorist that rides your morning UTA bus to work, who blinks too often or looks past you with glassy eyes when he talks. He looks vaguely ethnic, but in a sort of American Melting Pot way, nothing identifiable. He has shallow, sad eyes, and he takes his steps without purpose, as if he'd walked into my lab but might just as well have walked into any room in any building on campus.

"My uniform was stolen, you know."
"Oh, .... I'm sorry."
"Yeah, It wasn't you though. Or you," pointing to my co-worker and little brother Clayton, whose eyes are understandably glued to his computer, "or my dad or anything. I think it was a former roommate of mine. Not you though. I don't know. I've got this whole stack of paperwork." He laughs again. "So I just want to get the things back that are mine, you know? I'm trying to get things back that are mine, and it really upsets me. But it wasn't you."

I'm pretty sure by now that we're about to break through this dreamlike mess of an interaction. I'm convinced that the illusion of insanity he's cast will break down any minute and, in spite of his genuinely harmless appearance, he'll ask us for money or drugs, or try to sell us some kind of contraband, or make a grab at my laptop, because if the interaction moved to that level it would become concrete again, and I'd know immediately why he was here, talking endlessly in apparent non sequitur. But he gives me no such shift.

"So can I do that next week, can I get my credits transferred from West High and the Air Force to the U and start taking some classes, because I don't want to go back to the gravel pits," laughter, "I want to figure out who I want to be, if I want to be a teacher, or a car collector, I just don't know, but my plate is full of possibilities."
"I'm really sorry, but I can't really help you with any of that, I think you want to be talking to student services, they can help you get your credits transferred."
"Ah, of course, yeah, I don't mean to be rude..." he stretches his hand out for a fist-bump, which I give him slowly.
"Well, good luck with your uniform and getting your credits transferred," I say after he's talked again for a little while about wanting to go to school, more or less.

At first he's unfazed, but with his next disjointed sentences, he puts his picture back in his wallet and starts walking back toward the door.

"Well thanks, you know. I'll come back though, with some more time. I'll be back with some more time."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mrs. Cold

So I know Kings of Convenience are old news. But I'm sick of the insistence in blogging culture, and music culture, and internet culture, on making newness and undiscoveredness our most important measures of worth. I get it, nobody wants their online presence to appear un-savvy, but it's tiring, and I'm tired. Plus, back when I was first shown these guys at 15 or 16 years old, I was still a pretentious music snob (only in the other direction; newness was an indication of detriment). Even when they were shown to me again two years later by my girlfriend at the time, who deserves the entirety of the credit for delivering me from my musical pretension, I thought they were a carbon-copy - minus Paul's virtuosity as a songwriter - of Simon and Garfunkel. The bottom line is, now that I'm ready for them, I'm excited about it and I'd like to share that with you, okay? So we could talk about musical pretension in all of its forms, including my history with it, and you could stutter through your teeth, "Luke, I'm mad, because when I showed you *insert band/musician I now like* you hated them!" and I would say with a sigh and half a smile, "I know I did. I'm sorry. It's not your fault. I am sort of annoying." Or we could talk about girlfriends, or we could talk about real worth in music, or we could talk about how freaking awesome Paul Simon is. Seriously, we could talk about that. But for now I'd just like us to listen to this song, which is good.